AFFFF Review: Mrs Hyde (Madame Hyde)

Everyone is entitled to make mistakes. No-one is immune. Including Isabelle Huppert who leads this completely unappealing and misguided ‘riff’ on the Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hyde story set around a modern day French high school physics class. Poorly executed, cheaply made and with no real sense of direction, Mrs. Hyde is best quickly forgotten about…

As enticing a concept as a femme led update on the famous split personality monster story is, especially with the incomparable Isabelle Huppert in the lead, Serge Bozon’s attempt at it has no real handling of the concept by the promise of its initial idea.

There’s a moment early on in proceedings when, shortly after the ‘discovery’ happens, the you can actually pinpoint where the film completely derails. I’ll not reveal it here should you venture into these rather spineless woods, but it is the exact moment all of the steam the story has is let out of Mrs Hyde.

It’s modern day suburban Paris and the meekish Marie Gequil (Huppert) is a new physics teacher who is struggling to control her classroom. She’s been hauled in front of a student/teacher committee after two of her students are complaining she doesn’t let them use the machinery or learn in the classroom. Pleading her case, Gequil speaks of a particular student Malik (Adda Senani), whose physical disabilities make him disruptive in class and, even so, he shouldn’t be denied an education. Given a warning and notice that an education inspector will be coming  in a week to assess her ability.

When she retires to her lab in a demountable office in the car park, a freak accident sees her take an electrical charge through her body which awakens (well, should awaken) her more dominant alter ego.

Again, the premise sounds exciting enough and certainly one a fearless actor of Huppert’s calibre could revel in (and she does a fine job with the utter lack of material she’s given to work with), yet there’s not a home run hit in this 95 minute fizzer.

In attempts to fuse contemporary discourse into the story through Malik, an intelligent yet lazy Arab-French teen whose life in the tenements is swaying him to the local gang moreso than study, Bozon never has the nouse to delve into any further than a group of thugs rapping in a vacant lot.

The same can be said Gequil’s newfound abilities. They do absolutely nothing with it. A subplot of a stay at home husband and the busybody neighbour is never fully realised, nor is the inclusion of a very shabby looking Romain Duris as the school principal with notions of grandeur.

Instead the film labours through some of the cheapest cinematography and lighting on a movie in years as it schools you on how to find lengths between two points (yes, it spends a good couple of minutes explaining a mathematical solution to you), who electricity doesn’t move right through a Faraday Cage, and spends a several minutes on a terribly bad rap as performed by some local teens.

Frightening dull, tonally amiss and rudderless in all facets, Mrs Hyde is a misstep of a film save the presence of Huppert and Senani. Look, we’re all allowed to make mistakes, that’s a part of the human journey, right? Notch this one up as one and let’s move on.

★★

MRS HYDE screens as a part of ALLIANCE FRANCAISE FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL 2018